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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Arizona wideout Hill sidelined with neck injury, plus Q&A

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Colin Darland
Colin Darland / Daily Wildcat

With the departure of receivers Juron Criner, David Douglas, Gino Crump, and David Roberts, the door is wide open for Austin Hill.

But due to a neck injury sustained this spring, Hill will have to wait until the fall to walk through that door and emerge as Arizona’s No. 2 receiver next to Dan Buckner.

The 6-foot-3, 211-pound outside receiver, who caught 21 balls for 311 yards and two touchdowns as a redshirt freshman last season, has been out all spring after waking up one day with a sore neck. The sore neck led to nerve issues, which have caused pain in Hill’s left arm to the point that he can’t even lift it.

“I’m not really sure, I just woke up one morning and it felt kind of different,” Hill said. “I went to the training room and we got it looked at and it’s pretty serious.”

Because of the injury, Hill hasn’t participated in contact drills this spring. Instead, he has been engulfed in UA head coach Rich Rodriguez’s signature running drills while doing “a lot of core work, abs, lower back, and strengthening of the hips.”

Hill isn’t exactly sure of the nature of the injury or the timetable attached to it. The former three-star recruit missed two games with a neck injury and concussion last season after he was knocked unconscious by Oregon’s John Boyett. Hill said the injuries are unrelated, however, and he’s working hard to stay conditioned while cautiously working on range of motion drills.

“I don’t want to re-injure it or make it any worse, because something like this, I could be out for months rather than just a couple weeks,” Hill said.

Assuming the Corona, Calif., product can shake the neck injury and return to form, he should be able to build on his production a season ago. With Juron Criner out due to an appendectomy, Hill broke out against Oklahoma State in Arizona’s second game of the season.

The long and athletic receiver exploded for eight catches and 128 yards as he torched the Cowboys’ secondary. Hill also scored a touchdown in the season opener against NAU and caught five balls for 57 yards and a score against USC.

Hill didn’t always have many balls thrown his way due to the UA’s deep receiving corps, but with Hill expected to line up opposite of Buckner this season, that should change.

Combine Hill’s expanded role and his chemistry with fellow Corona native and starting quarterback Matt Scott and the receiver is poised for a breakout season.

“I was always comfortable with Matt, catching balls from Matt,” Hill said. “As a receiver there are certain quarterbacks you could say you’re more comfortable with. I’ve always been comfortable with Matt so the transition is really easy for me. I think Matt has maybe a softer touch than Nick (Foles). He has the same power. Nick could really power the ball in but I think Matt has a soft touch.”

Q&A: Austin Hill

On what he did in the offseason: “I was working out at home. My dad taught me a lot and I’ve always worked out with my brothers so we just ran routes at home, worked out with my dad. My parents always keep me busy when I’m home. My oldest brother played at Oregon State.”

On the difference between the Stoops regime and Rodriguez’s staff: “Just a lot more coaching. They’re getting into you a lot more but that’s what we need. We need to turn the program around and that’s what’s happened this year. I like it so far.”

On if he keeps in touch with old players and coaches: “Yeah coach (Dave) Nichol. And Juron (Criner) comes by every once in a while and I say, ‘What’s up?’ to him because he taught me a lot last year so I always like to catch up with him.”

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